Tweets and the Middle East

By Sheldon Levine - Thursday, November 22nd, 2012 at 11:31 am  

A little over a week ago the constant conflict that has been happening in Gaza reached new hights with both sides going on what they call “defensive attacks.” While this area of the word is, unfortunately, no stranger to fighting, there was something different this time. Not only was the battle being fought by militants and soldiers, but it was also playing out online as for the first time ever an army was live tweeting it’s battle. Israel’s army, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), was actually live tweeting the conflict and what they were doing. This unprecedented social media move had stirred quite a bit of controversy as no one had ever seen, or even thought, an army would live tweet their tactics as a conflict played out.

This also got a lot of people talking about what was going on through social channels. I thought that it would be interesting to look at how some of this played out in terms of social media data. With no commentary on the matter from myself, I decided to look for chatter in social media about Gaza as a lot of the talk was being tied together through the use of a #Gaza hashtag.

I looked up talk of “Gaza” from the day the battle started on November 13th up to yesterday when both sides agreed to a ceasefire. From November 13 to the 21st I found Gaza being mentioned through social channels over 6.2 million times. There was 90,875 blog posts, 203,857 online news articles, 148,664 forum postings and 5,852,672 tweets.

Since most of the activity was happening on Twitter, I dug a little bit deeper into what was happening there. Here I found that an average of 27,096 tweets about Gaza were being sent every hour over the course of the conflict. The hight of talk peaked on November 18th.

In the chart above we can also see a percentage breakdown of countries that were tweeting about Gaza. Below though, I pulled up a heat map of where these tweets were coming from and we can see that people all over the globe had something to say regarding what was happening in Gaza.

Something else interesting that I noticed when digging into this Twitter data was that a lot of the chatter about Gaza was actually people sharing information from other sources. I found that 62% of all the tweets I found about Gaza were actually retweets. That means that people were seeing information about the conflict coming from other sources and then RTing and passing that information on to their networks. 34% of the tweets found were regular tweets, meaning people that were saying something of their own accord about the conflict. The final 4% of tweets were @ reply messages, meaning that only 4% were people actually having direct conversations with one another about what was going on.

Lastly, I pulled up a word cloud and a buzzgraph to take a look at the conversation across all the social channels combined. It was interesting that in the words that came up in both of these I found it interesting that most of the words were more descriptive of what was happening and not personal feelings stemming from either side of the conflict. But at the same time, I suppose that supports the fact that most tweets were people RTing information about what was happening in the Gaza Strip as opposed to getting into heated debates about which side they sided with.

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